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Annabel Streets & Susan Saunders – The Complete Guide to Ageing Well

 

The Age Well Project

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Stu: This week we welcome Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders to the show. Annabel and Susan have compiled almost 100 shortcuts to health in mid and later life, including: how, when and what to eat; the supplements worth taking; when, where and how to exercise; the most useful medical tests; how to avoid health-threatening chemicals; the best methods for keeping the brain sharp; and how to sleep better.

The Age-Well Project is an essential handbook for making the second half of your life happy, healthy and disease-free. In this episode we discuss the health misconceptions that mainstream media lead us to believe and learn about the four cornerstones of healthy ageing that holds the key to truly optimising our own health, enjoy…

Audio Version

downloaditunesListen to Stitcher Questions we ask in this episode:

  • Tell us about ‘The Four Cornerstones of Healthy Ageing’ (15:24)
  • Do you prescribe to any particular diet or way of eating? (16:52)
  • What supplements do you take and why? (42:59)

Get More of Age-Well Project

If you enjoyed this, then we think you’ll enjoy this interview:


Full Transcript

Stu

00:03 Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of The Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve a long lasting health. Now I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do. Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We’re into whole food nutrition and have a range of super foods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious, want to find out more, just jump over to our website. That is 180nutrition.com.au and take a look. Okay. Back to the show.

00:44 This week, I’m excited to welcome Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders, who are founders of the Age Well Project. Between them, both Annabel and Susan witnessed family members succumb to heart disease, cancer, dementia and diabetes and wanted to do everything they could do to reduce their risk of suffering the same fate. So, for the last five years, they’ve immersed themselves in the latest medical studies, radically overhauled their own lives and documented their findings via a blog. And now a book. In this episode we discussed the health misconceptions that mainstream media lead us to believe and learn about the four cornerstones of healthy ageing that holds the key to truly optimising our own health. Over to Annabel and Susan. Hey guys, this is Stu from one 180 Nutrition and I am delighted to welcome Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders to the podcast. Ladies, good morning. How are you?

Susan

01:41 Really good.

Annabel

01:41 Good morning Stewart.

Susan

01:43 Good morning from London.

Stu

01:44 All the way from London way. Hopefully you’ve got a nice day. We are just coming to an end over here in Australia. So, but I can tell you that Friday’s been a good day, so don’t despair. It’s all good.

Annabel

01:54 Good, good. We are hoping for a good Friday ahead of us.

Susan

01:59 Yeah, this is a good start to the day.

Stu

01:59 So, first up, thank you so much for joining me today. I’ve got loads and loads of questions that I want to fire at you as well. But for all of those people, our listeners, that are not familiar with you guys, your work, books, things like that, I just wondered if you could share a little bit about yourselves please.

Annabel

02:21 Yes. Well we, we met about 10 years ago outside the school where we had two daughters and we started talking and we discovered fairly early on that we both had very similar backgrounds in terms of the families that we came from and the, the diseases that we believed were in our genes. And a, and we sort of cemented our early friendship over conversations about subjects like dementia and Alzheimer’s and all those sorts of things. And then later on we decided to start blogging. We were both working, we had young children, we were very, very busy and we were finding it quite hard to adopt sort of healthy lifestyle practices into our own lives because we were, we’re juggling so many, so many balls.

Stu

03:11 Sure.

Susan

03:13 But we realized that we really needed to, as Annabel said, we both came from families with a history of the chronic conditions of aging and we just thought we’ve got to do something.

Susan

03:27 And we came across some research which indicated that by living a healthy lifestyle in middle age, we could reduce our risk of illnesses like or conditions like dementia by up to 90% which is a really staggering figure. It may not be correct, but it, it’s, it’s, we can really do something to reduce our risk. And we thought we’ve got to find a way. We’ve got to find time to, to, to fit that into our lives and also to really get to bottom to the bottom of the research. And we just started reading all those research papers kind of late into the night, which really wasn’t very healthy but, but it was very informative to try and make sense of it in our own lives day to day.

Annabel

04:12 And we both had backgrounds and neither of us have medical backgrounds. And I think that’s an, that’s always been important to us to make that point, actually. Both of us have backgrounds in writing and researching. So we were, we were sort of, we had a long, both had long careers of, of weeding through data and trying to find what really, you know, what the real story was or in our case, you know, what was really happening. And then trying to, you know, set aside all of the, the chaff and certainly here in the UK and it’s probably the same over in Australia there were so many headlines that were really confusing and we were just as confused as everyone else. But with, with our sort of ex, you know, with our background of researching and writing, we were, we felt we were well placed to try and get to the bottom of these. And I also had a masters in statistics. So a lot of the research was about actually looking at how the questionnaire had been devised about the sample, who the sample size.

05:13 And once you, once you understand how the research has been put together, quite often you can see why, you know, why the researchers have come to a particular conclusion. And that isn’t always the conclusion that is most helpful for, you know, the average person. I said there was a lot of heavy duty reading and a lot of the trolling through data, which we’re still doing now. But we spent five years of looking through this data and then each week we would, we would choose a particular report and we would sort of try and understand what was really happening in the report and we would, we would write about it. And in fact in the early days we always blogged with a recipe.

Susan

05:53 Yes. We, sort of, our kind of Age Well journey started in the kitchen cause that’s what made most sense. And certainly for me when we started I thought actually it’s all just really about food and that and then as we progressed we realized there were so many other elements but we will, yeah, we started, we started cooking, we started adding recipes to our repertoire and trying to find recipes which are really healthy for us as we age.

06:19 But which are kids, who were quite young then, they’re now teenagers, which they would eat as well. We start to battle that we kind of really wanted to share that with people because there aren’t, there’s lots of lovely cookery books for kids and, and resources for that. And there’s lots of things to do if you’re healthy, you want to be healthy and you’re on your own. But actually feeding a family is much harder.

Stu

06:41 Absolutely.

Annabel

06:41 And it wasn’t just our small children. We were also a certain, and still are actually in my case. We were also sort of looking after elderly parents and in laws and, and helping to feed them and you know, they don’t always want to eat quinoa and spinach as well. So yeah, we were just trying to find a meals that worked for fussy young children and elderly parents…

Susan

07:09 And husbands. Husbands who like pies.

Annabel

07:12 And husbands who like steak, chips with a few beers. So that was quite challenging. So we, so food was a really, really important part early on. And then we sort of felt that we had sort of slightly cracked food. You know, we’d got all, all my children were eating healthy food and you know, we had a really good repertoire and then we sort of started to look at other things too. So we started looking specifically at exercise was the next thing. You know, we have to try and fit into our lives.

Stu

07:39 Wow. Boy oh boy. Well that, no, that’s fantastic. So, so then to recap, so you were super curious. Thought that perhaps now was the time to make big change if you wanted to live long and healthy lives. In at a time when I think all of us are confused in terms of should we eat red meat? Should we eat eggs? How should we exercise? What are the things that we need to do? Because we’re being told supposedly that we’re living longer than we ever have before.

08:12 But as your project quite rightly points out, are we aging well during that time? Cause I don’t think that we are and, and that’s why I’m so interested to talk to you today because I think that we’ve lost our way. And I kind of think we had our way maybe, you know, a hundred or so years ago where we did have the practices that enabled us to be more mindful of of I guess many, many different areas of our lives in terms of sleep and stress management and movement and simple foods. But now we’re in a, we’re in a time that is so fast paced and we’re tired and wired.

08:51 So I guess question one then to you, we are told that we are living longer than ever before. What are your thoughts on that?

Susan

08:59 Well, it’s interesting you say that and it’s certainly true in Australia, but here in the UK, lifespan is actually now going down again.

Stu

09:09 Oh Wow.

Susan

09:10 It has. Yeah. So it’s peak… So now actually in, in the last year or so, lifespan has gone back six months. That means people are living six months less and that is, you know, there’s a variety of factors. Obviously the NHS has a huge burden [inaudible 00:09:30] financial issues here, but issues like diabetes, obesity, dementia are now having an impact on longevity in the UK. And more than that, they’re having an impact, as you eluded to, to health span. And we talk about the difference between lifespan and health span. How many healthy years do you get? The ambition for all of us is to die as healthy as possible.

Stu

09:58 Yeah.

Susan

09:58 Live as [inaudible 00:09:59] possible and be you as well as you can be at the moment of death. And it’s those years of frailty and morbidity which you will want to try and avoid. And I spent 12 years caring for my mom who had severe dementia. So I’ve really seen that decline at first hand and that’s what really sparked my Age Well journey was just the thought of I don’t want to go like that. And I don’t want my daughters to have to care for me in the way that I cared for my mother and the way she cared for her mother who also had Alzheimer’s. So that’s what really triggered the project. You know, how do we make our later years as healthy as possible? It’s not really about, but I didn’t think anybody would say, I really, really want to get to 90 and I don’t care how well I am.

Stu

10:48 Yeah.

Susan

10:49 [inaudible 00:10:49] We want, we all want that, that health span. And so yeah that, that’s been our focus.

Stu

10:56 Wow, fantastic. Well, your focus is very close to my heart, because I lost my mother two years ago to Lewy bodies disease, which is neurodegenerative. And she was 67 so definitely, in my book, way too young. And my father with diabetes and, and early onset Alzheimer’s as well is again just way too young. And I’m in an industry where I’m lucky enough to talk to the best of the best, you know, in any given field. So Dale Bredesen on Alzheimer’s and Dan Buettner on blue zones and I have access to all this information. And so, I’m really intrigued because you’ve taken all of that information and managed to distill it with the skills that you have at hand and you’ve put it into a book, the Age Well Project, which I’m really, really keen to talk about today. What, what can we expect from that book? If a copy landed on my desk. Like how could we use that book to better our lives?

Annabel

12:01 Well, I hope a copy is about to land on your desk [inaudible 00:12:04] that happens. The first thing to say is that, you know, that the book contains 97 tips and these are the things that we’ve distilled over five years from the, you know, thousands of reports that we’ve read. And they’re the 97 things between us actually, because not everything worked for both of us. And that was one of the things we found early on is that you know one type of exercise might work for one of us. One type of eating might work for the other, you know, so, so, so the body is, you know, our bodies are all unique and we, we, we all need to understand that it’s not a one size fits all age well project.

Stu

12:46 Yeah.

Annabel

12:46 [inaudible 00:12:46] needs to work out how best their own unique body’s going to respond to, to whatever it is. So those, so the book contains 97 tips gleaned from all of this research. And, and again, there were things that we felt we could accommodate in our, in our busy lives.

Stu

13:01 Yeah.

Annabel

13:03 And they cover everything from so so that, yes, so that there, we blogged for five years and we probably have about 300 also posts up on the blog and they range from everything from, you know, the best food to eat in order to prevent osteoporosis. You know, how much alcohol should we be drinking, if any. Is caffeine, is it good or is it bad? Supplements. What role do they play as we age? So everything, everything has a sort of longevity focus. And so the book is the 97 tips. And then we have recipes, quite a few recipes at the end, not nearly as many as on the blog. And we also were lucky enough to interview lots of longevity experts.

13:50 So we sort of traveled around the country interviewing various professors of dementia research and professors of nutrition for longevity. And I also got to interview lots of really inspirational super agers, I guess we’d call them. So they are all people in their nineties who are in extraordinarily good health and who had, you know, wonderful inspiring stories to tell. So they are also in the book. So that’s sort of what readers can expect from it but it, and it’s also written in a very, we think, very easy to follow, very accessible style. So you don’t have to start at the beginning and wade through pages of turgid research. You can pick and choose. And if you’re interested more in, you know, finding an exercise program that’s right for you, you can go there or you can, you can, you know, look at something on how we keep our brains engaged as we, as we get older.

Stu

14:41 Excellent. Excellent.

Annabel

14:41 So what we’ve really tried to do in the book is to still down all those reports and all the work by people like Dan Buettner and Dale Bredesden and sort of write down and then put our tips and what we do day to day. So there is for each of the 97 tips that Annabel referred to, there’s the kind of what we do and how we’ve made sense of it as well in our lives with everything else that goes on. So it doesn’t feel impossible I hope. Not overwhelming.

Stu

15:10 Yeah, no, that’s, that’s excellent.

Annabel

15:12 Did you, have you not… [inaudible 00:15:12]

Stu

15:12 I have, yes, I have a copy on the way.

Susan

15:21 Oh good.

Annabel

15:21 Good.

Stu

15:24 So I actually saw the, the book was reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald just a few days ago and, and I thought, oh, I’d love to talk, I’d love to talk to the authors because that’s right down my alley. So, and in the article they used the term, the four cornerstones of healthy aging and I just wondered if you could elaborate on that for us please.

Susan

15:48 Well, as we, as we dug into all this research and, and tried to make it work in our own lives, we realized it fell into really four categories. One of which is very broad, but, but sort of four main categories. How to eat, we’ve already talked about. How to move rather than just exercise ,it’s sort of a very broad range of movement. How to rest, de-stress and sleep. And then how to, how to stay engaged. By which we mean staying social, being involved with people, stimulating our brains and also being within our environment and the impact our environment has on aging. So those are the kinds of, those are the, the four things that, that really prop up everything that we’ve done with the Age Well Project and our, our focus. And it’s what we’re always thinking about is how we fit those four, those four categories into our lives every day and make them work.

Stu

16:52 Right. Well, the, then the, the first category, food, huge topic. Now a bone of contention for so many people. And I remember in my grandparents’ day, they just ate food. Quite simple food and they didn’t have to worry about any of the things I think that plague us nowadays in terms of should we be vegan, vegetarian? Should we follow a Paleo Diet? A pescatarian diet? High fat, low fat, water, so many, a lot. It’s just ridiculous. So where have you navigated to then on, on the, on that road, in terms of food, have you found that you’re gravitating to any particular style of eating?

Annabel

17:39 Well, we’re, we’re very, we’re sort of opposed I think in general to the idea of a prescriptive diet.

Stu

17:44 Yes.

Annabel

17:44 So again, all the research shows that, you know, a single prescriptive diet, you must only eat these set ingredients or whatever, or this certain way just generally doesn’t seem to work. And you look at a super agers and you look at blues zoners,

Annabel: 18:00 And as, they typically eat what we refer to in the book as the Mediterranean style diet. And I don’t even like to use the word diet, really. So it’s a way of eating that encompasses so much more than just merely food. It’s also about how you eat, and when you eat. But in terms of the, I guess I will call it diet, but in terms of the food that we found works best for longevity, and also works best for us, and our lives. It is that Mediterranean style. So essentially, plant based. But we still both eat meat. Not vast amounts of it. But some of it.

Susan

18:35 And fish.

Annabel

18:35 And again, when we eat meat, it’s typically organic. It’s a very small portion. In my family, we’re quite fond of a little bit of game. So pigeon breast, or something. Which is exactly what my ancestors here ate. They ate game. They ate rabbit. It didn’t eat lots of beef and pork. So we focus more on that. We eat a lot of fish in both our families. We’re big fans of oily fish. So lots of sardines. We have larders full of tins of sardines.

Susan

19:06 We’re obsessed with sardines.

Annabel

19:07 We’re obsessed with sardines, yeah.

Stu

19:10 You’re speaking to the right person. I have a stack this high in my pantry. And had a really nice tin of kippers today.

Susan

19:16 Kippers, yeah. Love those kippers.

Annabel

19:19 Oh, I love kippers. And when people say to us, “Oh, but all that salmon. It’s so expensive.” We say, “Well, just go and buy a kipper. And it’s 50 pence. Or a tin of sardines. It doesn’t cost the same.” Plus there’s a lot of vegetables. And if there’s one thing I’ve changed in my family, we used to have the meat and two veggies. Which one was potato. Now, every meal has at least four vegetables. So lots and lots of different colored vegetables. Lots of whole grains, as well. So all the white bread, the white flour, that’s all gone from our pantries.

19:55 Fruit, obviously. And there are other things, too. Like we’ve cut down on the alcohol we drink. And we’ve changed the type of alcohol we drink. Not so many cocktails and things. Just be a glass of red wine. And again, not every night. So lots of nuts. So, very much the Mediterranean way of eating. Although that’s not necessarily what you eat when you go on Holiday in the Med. We always make that point, as well.

Susan

20:25 The traditional diet of the Southern Europe, essentially. Where people were poor. Where life was tough. Where they had to eat olives. Because that’s what they were growing. Lots of olive oil. Olive oil is liquid gold. It has extraordinary longevity properties. Pulses, and whole grains that they grew. Fruit and vegetables that they grew. That is a diet that has been very, very well researched. That’s the other thing, that there’s a lot of research that has been done into longevity properties of the Mediterranean diet. And that research just hasn’t been done on other diets. So we followed the data. And then, gently overlaid the other things that we found. So the emphasis on oily fish. On fermented foods for gut health.

Annabel

21:17 On organic foods. I did a lot of research into the impact of pesticides. And links between pesticides and things like… And Parkinson’s. And I know organic food is often more expensive. So in the book, we’ve drawn up lists of the foods that are most heavily sprayed. And the foods are not called organic. But typically have far less pesticides on. So that people can make informed decisions about, “Okay. With carrots, I’m going to always buy organic.” With potatoes, particularly, for example, apples, I’m always going to buy organic. But perhaps, radishes, you know, and bananas, I won’t be so prescriptive about that.

Stu

22:00 Yeah. That’s right. Tough skin. I’d always wondered about that. Because if, for instance, cruciferous vegetables. In my mind’s eye, I can’t scrub or wash off pesticide. Because of the nature and the shape of them. Whereas something like an apple, you can rinse under the tap. And I know that that’s really not that effective. And I always thought, well, if you can’t afford to purchase organic vegetables. Especially if you’ve got a large family, as well. Then it would be great to know which ones to gravitate to when you’re going conventional. So that’s all outlined in the book. Which will be great.

Annabel

22:38 Yeah. Now the list outlined in our book is based on EU research. So then, in America, they have their own data. And so, there it’s slightly different. Although there are some things, like strawberries, for example, and grapes, are just really heavily sprayed wherever you buy them. So that’s probably exactly the same in Australia.

Stu

22:59 Okay. Is there anything, then, from a nutritional perspective, given your knowledge, that you would go out of your way to avoid now?

Susan

23:12 Oh. Fried foods. Heavily fried foods. Foods which are fried at high temperature. And I don’t mean just a quick stir fry you make at home. I mean those kind of deep fried fish and chips, right? Traditional British diet. Because of what happens to the fat when it’s heated to high temperature. When it’s heated past its smoke point. It starts to break down. It degrades. It’s producing trans-fats. Which are really bad for our hearts. And for our brains.

23:42 I hate to say this to an Australian. But barbecued meats, same thing. So what happens to that blackened bit of the meat? I know it’s often the tasty bit. But that is-

Stu

23:59 Carcinogenic, right?

Susan

24:01 Carcinogenic. Yeah. It’s not great. So I do avoid those now, I’m afraid. But then, there’s so many other great things you can put on a barbecue. I don’t need to tell you that, I’m sure. But you, fish. We eat barbecued fish a lot in the summer now. Vegetables are great on the barbecue. [inaudible 00:24:19].

Annabel

24:18 I’m thinking, in our family, we do less of the takeaway. In fact, I don’t think we’ve had a takeaway for about five years. To my children’s great disappointment. Just again, because when you’re ordering in take out food, you don’t know what’s in it. It typically more highly seasoned. Much more salt. Much more sugar. Much more fat. We’re much more inclined to cook. And, in fact, the family, we all really enjoy cooking now. And we eat at home a lot. And that’s now cheat.

Susan

24:52 Yes. Because what we found was, actually, it was unavoidable to cook if you want to age well. You really have to dig in in the kitchen. It doesn’t mean anything complicated, or fancy, or chef-y. But it’s just preparing vegetables. Preparing whole grains. Rather than ultra processed, eating out processed foods. When those are the ones to avoid, really. Because you didn’t… If it’s made in a factory, you don’t know what’s in it. And what the long term impact of the ingredients are on your health.

Annabel

25:26 And in fact, cooking, and being at home and cooking with our kids is great. Because all of my children all love cooking now. And when my daughter went to University, she taught all her housemates who lived off Cornish pasty, to make soup. And make casseroles. So now they’re all cooking. So I think that’s the whole cultural change, that we’re also really keen to promote. Is we’ve got to get the next generation, our kids and all their friends, we’ve got to get them understanding food. And cooking for themselves again. So that they’re not reliant on take out pizzas.

Stu

25:59 Yeah. That’s great to hear. So I have three young daughters. And the twins are 10, and the eldest is 14. And they are super reliant now in the kitchen. And commonly, they’ll cook dinner for the family.

Susan

26:14 Amazing. That’s brilliant.

Annabel

26:15 Oh, that’s fantastic. Well done.

Stu

26:17 I just think, for them, it’s empowering. Because they can look after themselves. They can nourish their bodies. They can make informed choices based upon everything that they’ve learned from me. And I guess, from their journey’s, as well. But no, I’m so pleased to hear you say that. I think it’s important to reconnect with the kitchen. And to reconnect with the family, as well. Because that, I think, ritual has been lost over the years, to TV dinners in the ’70’s and the ’80’s. And then the convenience of packaged foods, and Uber-eats, and all of this craziness now, that delivers the processed vegetable oils. The sugar laden sweets and drinks, and everything that goes with it, as well.

27:04 And it’s funny, because I remember, I’m a child of the ’70’s. And I remember in our house, we had a chip pan. And my parents used to use lard. So it was animal fat, at the time. And it didn’t seem so at the time. But that was reasonably healthy, in fact, they were using animal fat. And they were cooking potatoes. Fast forward to the day. And now, it’s this highly processed vegetable oil, that sounds healthy. Because it’s sunflower oil, or canola oil, or all of these heart healthy oils. But nothing could be further from the truth. So it’s really so much like we want to rewind back to where we were 50 years ago. And reattach ourselves to some of the habits, and the rituals, that kept us in more of a simple life.

27:55 So, it’s great to hear you say that, as well. So what your thoughts, then, on movement and exercise? Given the fact now, that there are 100 different types of exercise that we could try. Lots of different fads. And again, rewind to my grandparents, they didn’t go to the gym. They didn’t go out jogging. They just moved. So how do you move? Do you exercise? Do you go to the gym? What do you do?

Susan

28:26 What we’ve- what is that we need to be moving. These sedentary lives we all have are in us. The average person now sits from 9 to 12 hours a day. And we’re just not designed to do that. So any form of movement that we can fit into our lives is really positive. And we really encourage people to fidget. It’s really, really critical. And if you fidget all day, you’re burning as much energy as you are going to the gym for an hour. So we all sit at these desks. And sit very still. So we’re always kind of on the move.

29:06 And encouraging people to move around. To not sit down. Of course, we’re sitting down now. But to try not to sit down. And to walk. You walk to the kettle. Walk to the coffee shop. Go for a long walk with the dog. Anything. It’s working movement into every hour of every day, that’s really critical. Rather than going to the gym for 40 minutes. And pounding it out. And then, not moving again for the rest of the day.

29:32 So that’s really our emphasis. Is that constant movement within daily life. And walking is one of the really key things that we emphasize. But beyond that, we’re also big fans of HIIT, high intensity interval training. And what we like about that is, because we’re talking to a broad range of people, with very different, potentially very different fitness levels, you can do HIIT at any level. You can work increased intensity into a walk in the park. Or you can work it into a run. Or going rowing. Which is a great exercise. Or cycling, or whatever it is you actually enjoy.

30:20 You can increase the intensity for 10, 20 seconds. Go back to your normal pace for a couple of minutes. And then up the intensity again. So we’ve found that’s a really positive thing that almost anybody can do. It’s just boosting the intensity over time. Resistance training, we’ve found to be really, really important to reduce the risk of that frailty of old age. The muscle wasting, we’re losing one percent of muscle every year, from the age of 40. Which doesn’t sound very much. But by the time you get to 60, that’s a lot of muscle loss, if you’re not doing anything to replace it.

30:59 So we don’t go to the gym, and get on the weights into the room, with the big sweaty, grunty guy, in their 20’s wearing little vests. We don’t go for that. But we, you know those guys? We do have… Keep weights at home. I put weights in my bathroom. Annabel’s got weights next to her kettle.

Annabel

31:21 By my kettle.

Susan

31:22 Just do a few kettle bells while the kettle’s boiling. Or just before I get ready for bed. Or when I get up. Or just, you do some kettle bell swings, or something. It’s just, it’s fitness by stealth. As well as classes.

Stu

31:37 Brilliant. Fantastic.

Annabel

31:38 But we’re really keen on the really fun things. So for the last five years, I’ve tried and awful lot of different dance classes. As has Susan. You know, we’ve tried everything. From ballroom dancing, to Zumba, to disco dancing. Things that we can do with our kids are really important to us. So we both have ping pong tables that we roll out. And just, even if it’s five minutes just bashing away with my son, that is a really good way of just quickly getting a little bit of exercise into your life. But also, having a little bit of fun. So we are very keen that people find something that they can do every day. And they love doing. Which always, isn’t always the case with going to the gym.

Stu

32:19 No. I think-

Annabel

32:21 I’m actually a really big fan of rowing machine, myself. So I do go to the gym. And I do ten minutes on the rowing machine every other day. So, yes, so exercise needs to be fun. Needs to be part of your everyday life.

Susan

32:32 and if you can make it social, that makes such a difference. Which is why dancing is great. So you can go meet people, or go with friends, and it doesn’t matter how good you are. Because what’s really great for your brain and your body, is the trying. And trying to learn the steps. And trying to have a go. So it doesn’t matter if you make a complete idiot of yourself, you’re actually doing yourself good by trying. And it’s a fun thing to do. And I very rarely meet anyone for coffee now. I will say, “Let’s walk.”

Annabel

33:01 Let’s go for a walk.

Susan

33:02 We can pick up a coffee on the way. Let’s walk. We can talk. It’s social. Going to exercise. We’re outside. If I take the dog, he’s getting exercise too. So you can pack a lot of things into a short time.

Annabel

33:14 And in fact, where my husband and I used to sometimes go for a drink in the evening. To a pub, or something. We never do that now. We actually go for a walk. Which I know sounds very dull, perhaps. But we really love our little evening walks. And so, we don’t drink on the walk. We get some exercise. And we sleep better as a result. So those are different ways that you can get exercise into your daily life.

Stu

33:37 Brilliant. That’s great advice. So I picked up on a couple of things there. And when one of them was, when you’re talking about dancing, you said you can learn new things. And I am so frightened of this rise, this epidemic, of dementia. And neurological decline. How important do you think it is to continue to learn new things? And what other strategies do you think that we could embody to prevent problematic, or prevent problems in the future? Which inevitably, seem to be happening to everyone we know.

Annabel

34:18 Well, I think there are two approaches. And I spent quite a lot of time with a particular professor in the UK, at a University here, who researches exactly this. And he has done lots of research into things like learning languages. And learning instruments. And also, some other thing. Brain, computer based training, and things. And he said to me, “The two best things that you can do for your brain are, either learn a language. Or learn a instrument.” He says, absolutely [inaudible 00:34:48] that, if you learn a language or an instrument, you need to do it socially. Do it in a group. So have a group violin lesson. Or join a language class. Rather than just sitting on your own, doing it on your laptop.

35:03 And he said, “And then, you need to go put it into practice. If you’re learning a language, then go and visit the country with your group of classmates. And speak it in situ.” And that way, he says you’re experiencing a foreign country, a foreign location, completely new to you. So you’re trying not to get a new city. You’re also grappling, obviously, with the language. And trying to use it. And you’re also, your brain is also working, as you engage with the people that you’re with.

35:31 And then, with the instrument, he actually said the best thing to do is to join a choir. Because again, that’s physical. He said, “You’ll get a workout while you’re singing.” And in fact, I did, then, go and have some singing lessons with an opera singer. And I was absolutely exhausted afterwards. This is such a workout for your core.

Stu

35:47 No doubt.

Annabel

35:48 I had no idea singing was so physical. So join a choir. You’ll be reading music. Which engages your brain. You’ll be with people. Which is social. You’ll be getting a workout. And you won’t be sitting there. You’ll be standing,

36:00 And sort of jiggling. So that was really interesting. But then he also said there are really small things we should all be doing everyday. So if we take the same route to work, he said, “Take a different route because whenever you’re in a different location, your brain has to work harder. You’re looking at new things. You’re taking new things. You’re not trying to work out where you’re going or where the next turn you have to take is. So he said just really simple things. And he even said if you go into a café, instead of just sitting in the same, you know your favorite chair by the window near the newspaper you always read, he said sit in a different seat every time you go. Pick up a different newspaper. Try different coffee. So it’s all about novelty. And every time you do something, even if it’s really tiny, our brain is having to reengage and rework. It’s that always doing the same thing, sitting there watching the same program on TV every night that is really detrimental to our brain health.

Stu

37:02 Fascinating. Yeah, routine possibly could work against us.

Annabel

37:07 Yeah, it’s great to our bodies. Our bodies love it. But our brains need the novelty.

Stu

37:11 Okay. All right. Well, second thing then I picked up on was you said that you went out for a walk instead of going to the pub with your husband, and it helped you sleep better as well. So sleep for me is perhaps the most important pillar I think in the foundation of health. And I liken poor sleep to so many issues particularly dementia and Alzheimer and the prevalence of that if you’re continually not getting the restorative sleep and getting unbroken sleep. Have you found that to be as important as perhaps I see that? And what are your strategies to get more quality shut-eye?

Susan

37:59 Yes, sleep is absolutely critical which is why it’s one of our cornerstones too that it’s absolutely so important to have that restorative rest, that the brain as you say can clear itself ready for the day ahead. And that’s what reduces Alzheimer’s risk. But it’s really hard. And I think for anyone, but for middle aged women, sleep is a problem. Menopause impacts sleep-

Stu

38:29 Sure.

Susan

38:30 And we live in a world which is designed to keep us awake. Everything is designed for us not to sleep, your bright lights, televisions, screens, another episode on Netflix, something else to read, someone else to talk to, another email, “Oh God I haven’t unloaded the washing machine.” Everything is geared up to make us feel that sleep is probably the least important thing we should be doing, almost like a waste of time. Well, how could you be sleeping when there’s so much else to do when actually it’s so critical. So we have really really had to work on our strategies.

39:07 In fact, we joke that we treat getting to sleep like a job. Yeah, or even maybe not a job but like one of those really expensive hobbies that with lots of kit like playing cricket or fly fishing. It needs discipline and work and routine to get to sleep. And that means switching off screens at a certain time. I set two alarms on my phone so that I have one that tells me to finish what I’m doing, get off my screens, it’s time to start getting ready for bed. And then I have another one that literally says in capitals with exclamation marks ‘GO TO BED!’

Stu

39:49 I get it.

Susan

39:52 That’s what I need to tell me to switch off everything and to really focus on it. And that goes off every night.

Stu

39:58 Brilliant.

Annabel

39:58 There’s some really interesting research into circadian rhythms and the importance of light for helping us sleep. So one of the things that, in fact we both do, I think religiously every morning is we try and get natural sunlight. Well, it’s not very sunny here in the UK very often. But we try and get the blue light that comes in early morning light. We try and get a good dose of that every morning. So a lot of the studies that we looked at said early morning light will actually help you sleep even if it’s 12, 15 hours later. So that’s been really helpful. And we’re zealous about that.

40:32 And the other thing is that an afternoon walk also can help you sleep better. And the other thing we discovered. It was a bit of ex … We’d always thought that exercise in the evening was detrimental to sleep. So I’d always been really, “Oh, mustn’t exercise in the evening because it’ll get and be all adrenaline. You’re rushing around me and I won’t sleep.” And then some research came out saying that actually exercise in the evening can help you sleep more deeply. And I say longer, but the deep sleep that you have will be slightly deeper and perhaps the deep sleep is also very fractionally longer. So then that was one of the reasons we started going for a walk in the evening actually because I was like, “Oh it’s okay. We can go out. We can walk in the evening.” So again, something like ping pong. We wouldn’t do the heat exercise just before bed but swimming in the evening also I think is a really good strategy for helping you sleep better at night.

Stu

41:23 Brilliant.

Annabel

41:24 If that makes sense.

Stu

41:24 Oh it makes absolute sense. I am so infatuated by my sleep quality because of everything that I’ve learned. And I track it veraciously to the T. I can tell you my ratios of light, RAM, and deep every single day. And when I wake up in the morning, I check, “How much deep sleep did I have? So what did I do yesterday that impacted that?” And it’s so important. But yeah, it’s so true.

41:56 We’re in an era now where all of the odds are against us. My 14-year-old daughter has a laptop for school. And I’ll go in there at 7 pm, and she’ll be working on homework. And I’ll say, “You’re giving yourself jet lag. Do you know what you’re doing to yourself right now? You are reprogramming your body to think that it’s daytime. And that will mess with your mojo.” And so she’s now got these blue light blocking glasses and the apps on all of her devices and things like that. But yeah, it’s so critical.

42:28 And I think to hear you talk about your sleep routine is so refreshing because I think many people just think, “Oh I’ll watch Netflix. I’ll have a glass of wine. And I’ll go to bed.” But I think it really does need work. And like you said, if you can put in that work in your 40s and your 50s, then I think the later years are going to be more favorable to you. So it’s really really good to hear. So I can’t wait to get stuck into that book.

42:59 You mentioned earlier, supplements. And I have read a little bit as well that you’re not that favorable where supplements are concerned. So I’m keen to understand, do you use supplements? And if so, what type and when?

Susan

43:18 We have different views on supplements. And Annabel takes Vitamin D. And we’ll tell you about that.

Annabel

43:25 Yeah, I think the thing about supplements. The most of the data shows that there is no corelation between supplements and longevity or supplements and not getting Alzheimer’s or cancer whatever. So the evidence is there really that they don’t work at that level. Having said that, I think if someone is nutritionally deficient in something, if you are deficient in Vitamin C or Vitamin E or Vitamin D or whatever, then there’s a very strong argument for taking a supplement while you try and work out whether you can make up that shortfall through diet. So always, we would say to people, diet is where we should be looking to get our nutrients. And again, a lot of the people that I spoke to, the nutritional experts and professors and whatever, said that what they’re discovering in their research is that it’s now about the interplay of phytonutrients, and probiotics, and prebiotics, and amino acids, and how they all work together. And you get that through having your plate with your vegetables, and your fish, and your nuts or whatever, having it all together. So that is really our general policy. I know Susan is slightly different.

44:53 But I think also there are occasions. See I’m very lucky I get to work from home. So it’s very easy for me to go down and make myself a fabulous salad and a few sardines for lunch. But not everyone can do that. And if you’re reliant on your local sandwich shop, I think that’s really really hard. So obviously, we’re flexible in that respect. But the one vitamin where you’ll see in the book, the one vitamin supplement we routinely recommend certainly in the Northern Hemisphere is Vitamin D where 50% of the population here are deficient in Vitamin D. And Vitamin D as you’ll know, Stuart, is increasingly being linked to pretty much everything, from depression to osteoporosis obviously and all sorts of other things. So we’re really keen. And we advocate Vitamin D supplement for everyone. And Zinc has also been proven particularly if you get a lot of respiratory infections. Zinc has been proven to help that. So we’re quite keen on the Zinc as well.

Stu

45:56 Great.

Annabel

45:56 I know Susan has a few supplements that she takes.

Susan

45:59 Yeah, so I take Vitamin D. And it’s really interesting. The research is coming out of Australia now which I’m sure you’re aware of about how people are Vitamin D deficient in Australia because of the drive in recent years to cover up, the whole slip, slap, slop sunscreen. And it’s brilliant of course for reducing skin cancer risk. But actually, people aren’t getting the Vitamin D they need.

46:26 But in terms of supplements, because I work full-time as a TV producer, I can be away on location. Perhaps, my diet is not as good. I might be grabbing something, a quick lunch from a shop as I’m on the go. I do take CoQ10 because I think that’s something that we will lose as we get older. And you have to keep across. And I also occasionally take a Vitamin B supplement complex because I don’t eat a lot of meat. A lot of the fruits and vegetables we get here have lost the Vitamin B which should come from soil because soil is depleted, everything so heavily washed. Although I try and eat organic vegetables when I can. So I think that’s just something that I feel that I need to keep topped up. And both those supplements help my energy levels going through busy days. Yeah, so [crosstalk 00:47:22]

Stu

47:23 Yeah, it’s good to hear and especially to reinforce the fact that we’re also radically different. And the magic pill doesn’t really exist I think. And we spoke to the director of a movie called Vitamania who looked at the history of vitamins, and their efficiency, and effectiveness from more of a scientific standpoint. And yeah, she was of the opinion that you’ll be so surprised how little you actually have to eat to get a full spectrum of vitamins when you could literally enjoy a small plate of salad with a small can of sardines or something along those lines. And that was like, well, that’s 100% of your recommended daily amount of vitamins. But certainly, if you are deficient in any given area, then of course great strategy to utilize. But I think just popping pills absentmindedly perhaps won’t get the results that you want.

Susan

48:19 And the other thing that I do say to people if they don’t eat fish, because oily fish is such a good source of DHA and EPA which our brains need, is to look at a micro algae supplement because if you’re not eating fish, it’s hard to get those nutrients. And our brains really need them.

Annabel

48:40 And if you don’t eat meat, you really need a B12 supplement. And older people often need a B12 supplement as well. So there are cases for it. But [crosstalk 00:48:49]-

Stu

48:48 Great. Yeah, no absolutely. So we’re just coming up on time. And I’m keen to ask the million dollar question which is in everything that you’ve learned during this journey, the Age Well Project, if I met you in an elevator and I had 30 seconds and said, “Just tell me. Give me three tips that you think will make the biggest impact on my health,” what would they be?

Annabel

49:20 Well, I’m going to repeat to you something that was said to me over there and really struck home. And he was an American longevity expert. And he said to me, “Two things, Annabel.” He said, “Just get a bit sweaty everyday and get a bit hungry everyday.” And he said, “That’s all you need to do.” I would probably add eat lots of vegetables to that. So do exercise that makes you a little bit breathless. Eat lots of vegetables. And perhaps, have a little bit of a fast somewhere in your day. Just feel a bit hungry. So there’s mine.

Susan

49:51 I think the three things that probably had the biggest impact on me. Eat more fiber. I’m really obsessive about fiber. Hardly anyone gets enough fiber. And the impact it has on our bodies as we age is absolutely critical. I personally have found meditation and that control over my mind really important. And that’s something I didn’t expect that to come after our Age-Well project. And stay engaged. Stay social. Talk to people. Get off your screen. All that sort of thing has been a really important eye opener for me.

Stu

50:32 Great. Now, that’s, yeah, amazing tips I think that if you are to incorporate a little bit of that type of thinking into every single day, then you’d be on the track to better health without a shadow of a doubt. So what’s next for the Age-Well project? Have we got a movie coming?

Susan

50:53 Gosh.

Annabel

50:55 That would be cool.

Stu

50:55 Yeah, you’re in the right space.

Susan

50:57 There’s definitely more to come. There’s more to come.

Annabel

50:58 Yeah, watch this space, Stuart. Watch this space. We’re not finished yet.

Susan

51:04 We’re thinking and planning. We’ve got more. And I think for us now having done so much research and now the book being out and talking to people, what’s clear is people really are very engaged with the how. The project already spells out the why. So what we’re thinking about now is the how and encouraging people to come on the journey with us in different ways.

Annabel

51:25 And finally, one last bit of research for you is that people who work all the way through their lives typically have better health and live longer. So we’re very keen on the ‘rewire don’t retire’. So we won’t be retiring and putting our feet up. We’re going to carry on with this project until we die.

Stu

51:45 Fantastic, yeah. So use it or lose it then stands true.

Susan

51:48 Oh yeah, that’s it. That’s really important. Absolutely.

Stu

51:52 Brilliant. Fantastic. And for everybody that is listening to this and wants to find out more about you guys perhaps personally and about the Age-Well project as well, where would be the best place to send them?

Susan

52:04 They should buy the book called The Age-Well Project. And they can find us on our website which is agewellproject.com. We’ve got hundreds of blog posts as Annabel said, recipes, information about us. We’re on social media. We’re on Facebook, the Age-Well Project, and Instagram. We love our Instagram and our followers there, Age-Well Project on Instagram. So yeah, come and find us. And come and tell us what you’re doing. And come and chat.

Annabel

52:38 Yeah, share your tips with us. [crosstalk 00:52:40] hearing from everybody else.

Susan

52:41 Yeah.

Stu

52:42 Brilliant. Fantastic. Will do. Well, I will share this with everybody that we know and hope to point as many people as we can in your direction because I think you’ve got so much knowledge and expertise to share as well that I think are a fantastic resource. Everybody needs to dive in. So look, Annabel, Susan, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I had a blast speaking to you as well. And looking forward to getting the book when it arrives.

Susan

53:09 Okay, thanks. Same to you Stuart.

53:10 Talk to you. Thank you.

Stu

53:10 Okay. You take care. Thank you. Bye bye.

Susan

53:10 Bye.

Annabel

53:10 Bye.

 

Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders

This podcast features Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders to the show. Annabel and Susan have compiled almost 100 short cuts to health in mid and later life, including: how, when and what to eat; the supplements worth taking; when, where and how to exercise; the most useful medical tests; how to... Read More
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